The storefront of Villalobos has come a long way from the newspaper and Mexican flag covering the windows in April. And the inside has been transformed to a chic, warm, and welcoming space to enjoy what owner and chef Adam Rose calls “Traditional Mexican with a modern technique.”
Nutley native Rose has worked at Restaurant Passione (former Montclair restaurant of Chef Michael Carrino of Pig & Prince) and Bin 14 Trattoria & Wine Bar in Hoboken, where Rose earned an “excellent” review from the New York Times. Since October 2011, he’s been Executive Chef at NICO at NJPAC. Rose’s creative partners are VJ Moscaritola, another Nutley native who currently owns Gumdrop Hairdressing in Montclair, and Ashley A. Rose, Adam’s sister, who worked as interior designer of Villalobos.
Talking to Rose, you can feel how passionate he is of Mexican cuisine. Though not formally trained in the food, Rose said he came to admire the cuisine while working in various kitchens with Mexican staff. His travels took him to Oaxaca and Mexico City where he tasted and learned how to make what he calls “a rich and true cuisine.” Rose chose Montclair to open his first restaurant because he feels its the food destination in Northern, NJ. He gave a shout out to El Matador in Bloomfield for offering great and authentic Mexican.
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Villalobos has a strong taqueria influence, offering eight taco options served on house made organic corn tortillas ($3-$4), which I had the pleasure of tasting last night at a press party. These are all really good tacos, but the stand outs for me were the Lengua (beef tongue, chipotle, pistachio), the Carnitas (cola braised pork belly, corn, cotija, ancho), and the Al Pastor (adobo roasted pork, pina, cilantro, onion) — the latter roasted on what Rose called “El Trumpo,” which is basically a vertical spit to grill meat just like a Greek gyro or Middle Eastern shawarma.
Vegetarians will enjoy the Verduras taco, made with maitake mushrooms, poblano, corn, and queso fresco, and some sides and salads. But Villalobos is heavy on meat, seafood, and fish.
Dinner entrees such as braised rabbit, grilled brook trout, black bass, and smoked chicken range from $18 – $27.
- Ostras en media concha, or Oysters on the half shell, made with a mezcal minonetta, green apple, and lime. ($19)
- Two types of perfect guacamole, the traditional style ($9) and the “Villalobos” house style ($13) with smoked tomatillo and sea urchin for the more adventurous foodie.
- The Esquites, sweet succulent corn off the cob with crema cotija cheese and ancho raises corn to a level that would make you need to go get a fix.
- Chiccaronnes, which are crispy pork skin, lime, morita chile, and queso fresco, are the perfect snack to pair with a cold glass of Negro Modelo.
And do not leave without ending your meal with the Churros, long sticks of fried dough dusted with cinnamon and served with a chocolate dipping sauce.
6 South Fullerton Avenue, Montclair, NJ, 07042
Lunch: Tuesday – Sunday from 11 am – 3 pm
Dinner: Tuesday – Thursday from 4:30 – 10 pm / Friday an Saturday from 4:30 – 11:30 pm / Sunday from 4:30 – 8 pm / closed Mondays